Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Executive Summary

Since 1989 the West Virginia Commission for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (WVCDHH) has had the responsibility of identifying the deaf and hard-of-hearing population and consulting with that population to ascertain and provide needed services. This preliminary performance review identified the following eight issues.

Issue Area 1: Commission is Not Maintaining Register or Census of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing as Required by Code

The Commission has not conducted a census of the hearing impaired, nor has it maintained the required register detailing the condition and cause of hearing problems for individuals and their capacity for work or industrial training as required by Code. Compared to U.S. Census Bureau estimates of approximately 115,000 hearing impaired West Virginians, the Commission register has 559 names. Further, the Commission's register gives no information other than name and address. The Legislative Auditor recommends the census and register be combined into one database. In addition, the Commission should create a comprehensive procedure on the methods of collecting and maintaining data in the deaf and hard-of-hearing registry/census database.

Issue Area 2: Failure to Investigate the Condition of the Hearing-Impaired

Statute requires the Commission to investigate the condition of West Virginia's hearing- impaired population with particular attention to those aged, homeless, needy, victims of rubella and victims of abuse or neglect. As part of this charge, the Commission is supposed to determine the means the state possesses for establishing group homes for its hearing-impaired citizens and the need for additional facilities. Additionally, the commission is to determine the advisability and necessity of providing services to the multi-handicapped hearing-impaired. No such study has been made to date. The Commission was created, in part, to inform the Legislature and Governor of the condition and needs of the population it serves. The Commission's failure to investigate the condition of the State's hearing-impaired has impeded the ability of policymakers to address issues of concern to the deaf and hard-of-hearing population. Immediate compliance with the charge to investigate the condition of the hearing-impaired population is needed.

Issue Area 3: Commission Losing Thousands on Certification of Interpreters

Since 1996, about 350 individuals have been evaluated to be interpreters according to National Association of the Deaf (NAD) standards. Only 10% have been West Virginia residents. These evaluations have resulted in losses of more than $23,000 since 1996. Based on data from the Commission's own records and a more comprehensive review of the program costs, the Legislative Auditor found the certification program to be subsidized by general revenues and concentrating its energies on the certification of out-of-state interpreters. A portion of the expenses comes from staff for compensation for time spent during evenings and weekends in these evaluations. Staff claimed hour for hour compensation spent at these evaluations. The lost days provide further cause explicit duties charged to the Commission have not been performed. The Legislative Auditor believes the Commission should devote all of its' resources, staff and monetary, to fulfilling clear statutory mandates to aid the West Virginia hearing impaired population in leading independent and productive lives (Code §5-14-1).

Issue Area 4: Commission is Successfully Implementing Three Statutory Mandates

The Commission is satisfactorily keeping the required clearinghouse of information and performing outreach to the public. The Legislative Auditor recommends the Commission begin keeping a usage log for clearinghouse requests. Improvements of the Commission's website are under way and will further the Commission's ability to provide outreach to the public. The Commission is also maintaining a well constructed Directory of Interpreting Services.

Issue Area 5: Commission's Lack of Participation Has Resulted in Ineffectiveness

In almost ten years the Commission has only had a quorum nine times and has never met four times in a year. Over the Commission's existence, ex officio members have averaged a 34% attendance rate, appointed members 65%. Commission staff are to serve at the direction of the Commission. Without Commission members participating and directing them, staff has not been held accountable for their work to an optimal degree. The Commission by not having a higher participation rate has failed the hearing impaired population of West Virginia by not giving its staff prioritized directives. As a result the population and their circumstances are unknown.

Issue Area 6: Commission Purchased TDDs with General Revenues to be Given Away to the Public; Commission Distributed TDDs to Public without a Defined Criteria

In 1995 the Commission received $3,000 from Bell Atlantic to purchase TDDs for the "really needy." Criteria used to distribute these TDDs is questionable and Commission records indicate only three were given to people with low income. Some devices were given away as "drawing prizes" and awards to "outstanding students." In 1998 the Commission spent 5.2% of its' General Revenue ($7,900) on the purchase of 50 TDDs to also be given to the public. All of these TDDs await distribution. Because the Commission has no authority to give away State property, the Legislative Auditor recommends the Commission develop a loan program for the purpose of distributing TDDs purchased by the Commission. A model for consideration by the Commission is the Library of Congress' program administered through the West Virginia Library Commission for loaning audio equipment for books on tape to blind and disabled individuals.

Issue Area 7: The Commission is Not in Compliance with the Open Meetings Law

The Administrative Law Division of the Secretary of State's Office found no record of any meeting notices filed by the Commission for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing since the Commission's creation. A meeting notice must be filed with Secretary of State's office for publication in the state register. The Commission should immediately comply with the requirements of the Open Meetings Law.

Issue Area 8: Commission is Not Properly Filing Annual Reports with Governor and Legislature

Statute requires the Commission to file annual reports with the Legislature and the Governor. According to the Governor's Office no annual report has been filed with the current administration, and no information is available for the previous administration. Neither the House or Senate Clerk's Offices have record of any annual report being filed by the Commission. The requirement to file annual reports provides accountability to the citizens of West Virginia. It is the way public bodies make their information available to the public which it serves and to government entities which provide oversight.